Telemark Skiing

Do you want to challenge yourself on the slopes? Then 'free the heel, free the mind' and give telemarking a go!

Telemark skiing is a form of downhill skiing where the boot is attached to the ski at the toe and the heel is able to move vertically. The word telemark actually denotes a type of turn where the downhill ski is moved ahead of the uphill ski, with the inside knee bent significantly. Although boots are stiff like those used for downhill skiing, the 'bellows' in the forefoot allow the boot the flex during turns.

Telemark skiing is more difficult than normal alpine skiing, requiring good balance and a lot of strength in the legs. However many skiers convert to telemarking looking for a new challenge, or because of the 'surfy' feel associated with telemarking in powder.

There’s no reason why you can’t try telemarking, and it's worth taking a few lessons and renting equipment before investing in all the gear. Not all rental shops stock equipment, so it's worth doing some research before you travel. It’s best to start with an easy-turning ski, like a relatively wide twin-tip. Many telemark skiers opt for a regular alpine freeride on which they mount telemark bindings, which feature adjustable springs to retain the boot (often referred to as ‘free-heel’ bindings).

Many major ski schools will provide telemarking tuition but again, it’s worth investigating before you travel. Specialist forums such as telemarktalk.com are useful for finding out more, plus telemark-skiing.co.uk features some UK-specific information.

 

Jasmin Taylor - GB 


We teamed up with Jasmin Taylor, GB Telemark's World Cup star, to find out why you should give telemarking a go and learn all about her personal journey with telemarking. 

 

What is it?

The telemark style is present in ski jumping at the landing and the same free heel is prevalent in cross country skiing and biathlon. It is considered by many as the original form of skiing and the free heel attachment was used to hike up the mountains, trek across and descend in style.

This can be seen in the modern re-invention of the sport in the form of racing whereby competitors must navigate a giant slalom flagged section whilst keeping the perfect telemark position. This is timed and judged; athletes will incur a 1 second penalty by skiing a turn in alpine. There is a jump which is a similar style to that of a ski jump; it includes a clearance line where athletes can attain more penalties (3 for not making the line, and another 1 for not landing telemark). After the giant slalom section there is a loom - a giant bowl or banked turn which leads competitors into the skate section. There are 3 disciplines; Classic (1 long time trial run, usually 2-3 minutes duration), Sprint (2 medium time trial runs, usually 1-1:30 minutes duration) and the Dual Sprint (a head-to-head knock out event). All disciplines include a giant slalom, jump, loom and skate. The competitors use alpine giant slalom skis, telemark boots and bindings and cross country ski poles. 

Action packed telemarking with Graham Bell

Check out this video of Jasmin on Ski Sunday, putting Graham Bell through his paces on a pair of telemark skis! Go Jaz! 


 

Why bother?

It’s a new challenge if you’re bored of normal skiing. It’s a great work-out. You can travel all over the mountain as the equipment is diverse, allowing touring, alpine skiing and telemark. It looks awesome. It is softer on your joints, as everything stays aligned and the freedom of movement means less impact and shock through the skeletal system.
 

How to get instruction? 

The British and Army Championships run in Pralognan-La-Vanoise in France, every January. There is a full week of instruction where you can arrive as a complete beginner, improve quickly and have a go at racing (or not if you don’t like that sort of thing). If you’d like to know more click here for more information.
There are races and festival events in the UK during the summer months as well plus you could hire a BASI Telemark instructor. You could just enroll in your local ski school, although there are particular resorts which are more equipped than others. There are some brilliant instructors in Les Houches, Samoens, Val d’Isere and Tignes, plus many more!

 

Where to find equipment?

There is no such thing as a telemark ski, you can use anything. If you want to telemark in the bumps, use skis suitable in the bumps - the same can be said for off piste, racing, touring and rock-hopping. After that, it starts to get a bit more specific as you will need telemark boots and bindings. There are a range of companies building telemark bindings, all of which can be used for touring, they include; The M Equipment, Rottefella, 22 Design and more. There are several boot manufactures too; Scarpa, Crispi, Scott and more. The trick is to make sure your boots and bindings will work together! There are different types of set up, for example; cables, NTN, pins and more. If you are looking to rent and try telemark, the British Championships, indoor events, BASI and French resorts all have access to rental equipment. 

Jasmin Taylor

Where is all began.. 

In my last year at primary school, we had a project on mountains. My parents saw my enthusiasm and decided we would visit the mountain I did my project on, but to make it worth our while going there, I had some ski lessons at the Suffolk Dry Ski Slope every Saturday. I was hooked and soon joined the local race club; the Suffolk Vikings. I started competing on the local race circuits, moving up a level each time I improved and eventually started race training on snow with the British Ski Academy. When I was there, I tried telemark for the first time with (the now British Telemark Ski Team coach) Sebastien ‘Seb’ Mansart. I found some equipment online and got started on the indoor slope at Hemel Hempstead. One year later, I looked Seb up and it all went from there!

Q&A with Jasmin

  1. How did you get into telemark skiing? 
    I started racing some French Cups and seemed to do quite well, following that I met Andrew Clarke and Jack Harvard Taylor after competing in one of my last Alpine races and they invited me to the GB Telemark selection week, where I then made the team.

  2. Did you ever try alpine racing? Why then the choice to race telemark?
    I did yes, I started quite late in Alpine but was pretty determined to be a full time skier, I even tried Ski Cross and was on the England team for a season but just loved telemark and how varied the training and competitions are.

  3. What is your current kit setup? Can this be sourced easily in the UK? 
    I ski on Blossom which you can buy through Ski Bitz, I have Scarpa boots which you can buy from Mountain Boot Company or Scarpa UK and Meidjo bindings which you can buy directly from The M Equipment. 

  4. Favourite race and place for telemarking? 
    I love skiing in Les Houches because that’s home from home for me now, there’s always something new to discover in Chamonix. I really love racing in La Thuile, the piste is super steep and it’s a great resort. 

  5. What is life like on the Telemark World Cup tour? 
    Always fun and challenging. It’s like a family in a way, the travelling and competing is exciting and it’s an adventure. 

  6. Will telemark racing make it to the Olympics? We heard rumours about 2020...
    It won’t be in the 2022 Olympic Games unfortunately, although at the last FIS Congress, the FIS elected to put telemark forward to the International Olympic Committee which is a huge step for the sport and the furthest it has ever come to becoming an Olympic discipline. 

  7. Funniest telemark moment? Surely there are some good faceplants! 
    I remember a French Cup Parallel Sprint race which was particularly warm, I pulled out of the start gate and my ski tips got stuck in the snow. As the snow melted I very slowly face planted and forward rolled out of the start gate. It was very strange and funny. 

  8. How many lunges do you reckon you do on a normal ski day?! 
    Hmm, not sure! I would say a minimum of 400 though!

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